What makes the authentic Algarve so irresistible

One of Portugal’s emblems is the ‘Galo de Barcelos’ or ‘Rooster of Barcelos’. According to the legend a dead rooster miraculously intervened in the hanging of a man who had been falsely accused. This famous and colorful emblem of Portugal symbolizes the love of life, a love that we share! So it’s no coincidence that Portugal is one of our favorite countries to visit. So, I guess this post should come with a disclaimer for those who haven’t travelled there yet. Authentic Algarve will win you over!

Two little girls admiring a red Galo de Barcelos artwork against a yellow wall in the streets of Loule in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Until recently, Lisbon was the only Portuguese destination we had been to. Fatih & Alegra went there on a father-daughter city break a few years ago. My visit doesn’t really count as it was work-related but still, we loved the country’s vibe and were looking for an opportunity to return. Since Belgian weather usually sucks, these opportunities tend to arise quite frequently. And so, Portugal re-appeared on our radar. Yet this time, we wanted to take a relaxing family-holiday which, for us, translates to a mix of culture, relaxation and exploration.

Mother and her 2 little girls posing at the marina of Faro in authentic Algarve in Portugal

The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost coast, stretches out from Sagres in the West to the Spanish border in the East. But, as mentioned earlier, we would take it easy and therefore decided to focus on a smaller area. And as often, we would let our choice depend on hotel reward programs and flight deals. Vilamoura, near Faro in the Eastern Algarve, would become our home away from home for the week. During that time, we’ve become hard-core Algarve fans. And with good reason. This amazing area truly has it all:

Stunning coastline

One of the most important attractions in the Algarve, is the stunning coastline. There’s no better way to enjoy this amazing landscape than by boat. So that’s what we did! And what an experience it was! Even the kids couldn’t get enough of it.

Rear view of a mother and daughter on a boat along the stunning coast of authentic Algarve in Portugal

It was April so the ocean was still pretty cold but that didn’t stop Fatih from taking a dip in the crystal-clear water.

CosmopoliDad swimming in the crystal-clear turquoise water along the stunning coastline of the authentic Algarve in Portugal, view from the boarThe Benagil cave is a popular attraction and we had hoped to explore it from the inside. Unfortunately, the boat we chartered was too high to enter. But we got over it. Mostly because it gives us a reason to return in the future – yeey! 🙂 And by that time the girls might even be big enough to explore this cave by kayak.

Bow of the boat facing a grotto along the stunning coastline of the authentic Algarve

Bow of the boat facing a grotto along the stunning coastline of the authentic Algarve

CosmopoliDad and his daughter on a boat sailing along the stunning coastline of the authentic Algarve

CosmopoliDad and his daughter on a boat sailing along the stunning coastline of the authentic Algarve

Crystal-clear water along the stunning coastline of authentic Algarve in Portugal

Crystal-clear water along the stunning coastline of authentic Algarve in Portugal

CosmopoliGirl waving from the boat to the beach seekers along the coastline of the Portuguese Algarve

CosmopoliGirl waving from the boat to the beach seekers along the coastline of the Portuguese Algarve

Secluded beach along the stunning coast of the authentic Algarve in Portugal

Secluded beach along the stunning coast of the authentic Algarve in Portugal

 

Dolphins encounters

If you take the boat a bit further from the shore, you have a chance of spotting both common and bottlenose dolphins. Or you can take a wildlife-watching tour in the company of a marine biologist. Click this link for an overview of all possible tours.

Dolhpins swimming along the coast of the authentic Algarve in Portugal
Source: Flickr

 

Charming cities

We explored the authentic Algarve in Faro, the seaside regional capital, and inland Loule.

  • Faro

The city’s historic center or ‘Cidade Velha’ is built upon the site of a Roman forum and encircled by ancient city walls. The main entrance is via the arch (Arco da Vila), right next to the tourist information office.

The arch or ‘Arco da Vila’ is the entrance to the historic center or ‘Cidade Velha’ in authentic Algarve in Portugal

The arch or ‘Arco da Vila’ is the entrance to the historic center or ‘Cidade Velha’ in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets in the historic center of Faro in authentic Algarve

Whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets in the historic center of Faro in authentic Algarve

Ancient city wall encompassing the historic center of Faro in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Ancient city wall encompassing the historic center of Faro in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Giant ‘I love Faro’ letters at the marina in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Giant ‘I love Faro’ letters at the marina in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Touristic train in Faro in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Touristic train in Faro in authentic Algarve in Portugal

We walked the cobbled streets along picture-perfect whitewashed houses. The bell tower is a favoured nesting spot for local storks but not the only one by far. And so we organized a nest hunt throughout the city. It’s always nice to have this kind of side-occupation for the kids when exploring a city. In our experience, this association serves as a mental hook to help them remember more aspects of a cultural visit.
Faro is really quite compact and so the historic centre is right next to the marina and the modern part of the city. No cobblestones here but rather pretty mosaic tiles adding to the city’s charm.

Girl walking over the mosaic tiling of a street in Faro towards a street artistLittle girl on board of a touristic train in Faro, looking bored and not happy

 

It’s all very well walkable so don’t take the tourist train. It is cute, we agree, but totally unnecessary. The tour is quite long and, well, quite boring. Especially for this girl. 😉

  • Loule

This city is less touristic and therefore better reflects the local Portuguese lifestyle. Loule is most famous for its covered gypsy market on Saturdays which takes place in the building on this picture.

Two little girls making silly faces at a terrace in Loule in authentic Algarve with the market place building in the backdrop

We strolled around the streets, flirted with the fountains on the Largo de São Francisco and admired the castle, built on an area previously settled by the Romans.

The castle of Loule in authentic Algarve in Portugal

The souvernir shops display beautiful ceramics and cork products. We had no idea about the many uses of cork!

A rack of cork handbags in a souvenirshop in Loule in authentic Algarve in PortugalA rack of cork hats in a souvenirshop in Loule in authentic Algarve in Portugal

Less touristic also means less obvious dinner options. Thanks to the Loule locals, we found the amazing 11 da Villa. What a gem! To say our tastebuds were spoiled, is an understatement. We have to go back to try Cafe Q though, with its enchanting terrace.

A picturesque street in the centre of Loule in authentic Algarve in Portugal

 

Lovely people & delish food

The Portuguese are super friendly and relaxed. We didn’t expect that they’d all be so proficient in English as they are. They’re very welcoming, kind and fond of kids. Oh, and the locals sure know how to cook!

 

Abundance of nature in Ria Formosa

The Ria Formosa Natural Reserve is located right behind Faro’s marina. These wetlands encompass an area of about 18 000 hectares and are protected from the ocean by 5 barrier-islands and 2 peninsulas. It is heaven for the nature-lover with dunes, marches, lagoons and a vast bio-diversity. Many bird species can be spotted during the wintering period. Plenty of excursions start at the marina in Faro.

View of Ria Formosa Natural Reserve
Source: Flickr

 

Beautiful beaches

Who can resist the golden beaches in the Algarve?

Little girl smiling brightly on the beach as she returns from the ocean in the Algarve with a bucket full of water

Beach fun in authentic Algarve in Portugal, picture taken on Falesia beach where the kids buried their dad in sand and kissing him on the cheeks

 

Authentic Algarve is waiting for you

Well, are you hearing it yet? The irresistible call of authentic Algarve? We bet you do! Breathtaking nature, charming cities, mouth-watering seafood, plenty of excursions and activities and the most luxurious accommodation options await you. Let the Algarve exceed your expectations.

Family portrait in front of the arch (Arco da Vila) in Faro, the main entrance to the historic centre in authentic Algarve's regional capital

 

Where to stay in the Eastern Algarve?

You’ll sure be spoiled with choice when it comes to accommodation too. Luxury hotels galore in the Eastern Algarve. Too much for this hotel geek to take a pick so I’ll leave that up to you!

A girl posing at the pool of the Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa in authentic Algarve in Portugal– Beach hotels

– Inland golf resorts set in lush gardens

– Hotels offering the best of both worlds, a beach & golf combo

– Unique experience on the Rio Formosa

  • House boat rental: How about your own floating terrace with a view of the barrier islands and wildlife?

 

Have you travelled to the Algarve before? If so, we want to know all about the cities you have visited. Or did you make a memorable excursion and want to share your experience? Then start commenting!

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2 Comments

    1. Sarah

      Wow, Johanna, lucky you! We didn’t make it to that side of the Ria Formosa, but we were told it’s even more stunning than the park area around Faro. Is that true? Please give us another reason to return! ???? Feel free to share your insider tips on the Tavira region. Thanks!

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